Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cop or Criminal?

Aiming for a career in law enforcement has inspired a lot of interest in this field. Specifically, shootings are an area that I hope to never encounter throughout my career, but in fact may. While speaking to current police officers, I always ask if they have any experience with officer involved shootings. Most say that they have never been put in that situation, but there are many whom always share a similar thought. The notion they share is that the events occurring after the shooting are more stressful than the shooting itself, or so the say. How then are police officers handled after they are involved in an officer involved shooting?

An article about a female police officer in the Santa Fe Police Department depicts exactly what occurred after a probationary officer was involved in a shooting. The officer responded to a call where a male subject was in possession of a knife, and just finished stabbing his girlfriend. The officers encounter the male, he then lunges towards the officer with the knife, at which point the officer shot and killed the male. The officer remained outdoors in the cold for over five hours, and the request for a jacket had to be cleared through the chain of command. The officer was transferred to the station for a bathroom break, but was put in the back seat of the patrol car. She then had to surrender her gun. As the officer finally went home, she had not spoken to anyone about the incident for nearly twenty-four hours until her interview, which consisted of two hours of interrogation.

As a future leader in law enforcement, I take into account this incident and determine what can be changed. First, I would allow the officer involved to be sent to the station, or allowed to go home. This allows the officer to vent with any emotional stir-ups they may have. I will provide a voluntary session with a psychologist so the officer may express themselves and be mentally fit for the job. Altogether, I will not make the officer feel like a criminal. Having to go up the chain of command for a jacket is absurd. Transporting the officer in the back of a patrol car is beyond belief, all that is left is to handcuff the officer and they will feel like a criminal. As a manager/administrator, my main focus would be to make the officer as comfortable as possible so they may have a clear mind in recalling the events that occurred.



Paul R said...

I agree that the way that that officer was treated was incorrect. She should have been given more options rather then being treated as if she had done something wrong. Are police officers afraid of pulling the trigger because of how they may be viewed in the department? If so something needs to change.

Espinoza Jr. said...

I think that officers are afraid to "pull the trigger." Not only are they hesitant in this type of situation, but in any use of force. It is common for the internet to have videos of officers using force, and people over-exaggerating the situation. Officers are afraid that they cannot do their job due to general orders, the media, internal affairs, and possibly loosing their job. Adminsitration and management need to realize that a lot of stress comes from having to think about what to do, rather than acting based on their training and experience.